The statements of the Rabbis are not pithy quips to be taken at face value. They are multifaceted ideas that are filled with nuance and can be mined repeatedly for inspiration and direction. Even the choice of words is a point of contemplation and study.
We are now in the month of Adar and over the gateway to the month, so to speak, is the Rabbinic statement: “Mishenichnas Adar Marbim B’Simcha” (Taanit 29a), which is generally translated as: “When Adar comes in we increase happiness.” I find the choice of the word “marbim” to be interesting. It is also connective and noteworthy that some of the series of five parshiot (portions) in the Torah, the second of which we read this Shabbat, which deal with the fabrication of the Mishkan, the portable Tabernacle that would manifest God’s continued direct connection to the Jewish people and His willingness to have His Shechinah (presence) dwell (V’shachanti) within the Jewish people, are always read during Adar.
The first time that the word “marbim,” in that specific form, is used in the Torah is in connection to the building of the Mishkan. Moshe put out a call for donations of the materials necessary to fabricate the Mishkan and everyone began to donate. Very soon after the campaign began, Moshe received the following report from every artisan of every area of Mishkan construction: “Marbim Ha-Am L-Havee, Meeday Ha-Avodah La-Melacha” (Shemot 36:4), loosely translated as: “The nation is bringing [material] abundantly, beyond the needs of the work.” The word “marbim” perhaps describes not only the amount that was donated by the people but also the attitude with which they donated. The people did not donate in a measured way but rather took every opportunity to find anything they could donate and bring it forward for the cause.
Perhaps this is also inherent in the words of the Rabbinic statement. When Adar comes in, take every opportunity to find happiness. We live in a society that confuses happiness with consumption, or celebration, or escape. However, assuming we truly understand what happiness is (which is a long conversation and stuff for another forum), we must appreciate Adar for its historic and spiritual potential for redemption — and it being the days of preparation for Nissan and Pesach, the time of ultimate personal and national redemption — and then abundantly take every opportunity to embrace happiness. That is even as, or maybe especially as, the pandemic continues to rage and continues to take the human and economic toll that we are experiencing. We cannot allow it to stop us from being happy, and abundantly so.
Rambam (Maimonides) wrote in Hilchot Megillah 2:17: “For there is no greater or more glorious expression of happiness than one who gladdens the heart of the poor, of orphans, of widows, and of aliens [strangers/converts/generally those without a support system]. Indeed, one who gladdens the heart of these downtrodden people is comparable to the very presence of the Shechinah as it says [God speaking in Yeshayahu 57:15], ‘I revive the spirit of the lowly ones and and I bring life to the hearts of the downtrodden.’”
Mishenichnas Adar Marbim B’Simcha — as now Adar is upon us, let us abundantly take every opportunity to engage in true happiness. pjc
Rabbi Daniel Wasserman is the rabbi of Shaare Torah Congregation and the president of the Gesher HaChaim Jewish Burial Society. This column is a service of the Vaad HaRabanim of Greater Pittsburgh.